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Under Protests’ Pressure, Bahrain to Release 126 Prisoners over Virus Fears

Under Protests’ Pressure, Bahrain to Release 126 Prisoners over Virus Fears
folder_openMiddle East... access_time2 months ago
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By Staff, Agencies

As protesters and rights groups voiced fears over the spread of coronavirus cases among political prisoners, Bahrain announced Friday it would allow more than 100 inmates to serve the balance of their jail time out of prison.

The public prosecution said in a statement that 126 prisoners would serve the remainder of their sentences in an “alternative” or non-custodial setting, adding that the convicts would be monitored electronically.

Dozens of prisoners’ relatives protested Friday in the suburbs of the capital Manama amid heavy security to demand the release of their family members, according to social media accounts.

Bahraini authorities said last week that three people at the Gulf kingdom’s Jaw prison were infected with Covid-19. It said they had been isolated and were in stable condition.

But according to the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy [BIRD], there have been dozens of infections among prisoners. 

“If Bahrain’s government is serious about tackling this outbreak, they should be fully transparent rather than undermining the seriousness of the situation at hand,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of BIRD in a statement last week.

Activists say Jaw prison has a maximum capacity of approximately 1,200 but that the number of inmates, including political opponents, is at least three times that number.

Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s most prominent rights activists who was freed from jail in June, welcomed Friday’s decision. 

“May it be a good omen,” he tweeted.

Since Bahrain’s 2011 uprising, which ended in a bloody crackdown with the help of Saudi forces, opposition parties have been banned and dozens of political opponents jailed, triggering international criticism.